Leadership is hard work. It requires learning to let go. It means trusting people, believing in them. The role of a leader is to set the mission of the organization and empower employees to achieve that mission. Of course, it’s one thing to say it and quite another to see it in action.
One such leader, who has written several books on ‘actioning’ leadership, is the famed Simon Sinek. His organization, SinekPartners, teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. His talk at a TEDx event, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action,’ speaks to how most businesses know what they do, most also know how they do it, but very few truly know WHY they do it. And this is why leadership is so important.
Passion for what we do comes when we discover the ‘why’ behind our work. It comes from leaders who know how to inspire their employees, and build long-term trust and loyalty. It comes from leaders who help their employees understand that they’re contributing to something so much bigger. It’s why we keep cheering for our beloved hockey team even though they haven’t brought home the Stanley Cup for countless years! True leaders have an uncanny skill for putting their people first, and it’s not happenstance that, in return, their people put them first. This is when the magic happens.
On the other hand, when management teams don’t engender feelings of safety or trust, employees have no option but to work out of fear and doubt. The outcome is a weaker organization. Safety is a key goal for leaders who want to create positive morale, and an employee base of people who work diligently together for the better of the organization.
Among so many golden nuggets to take away In Simon Sinek’s third book, ‘Together is Better,’ these three resonated with me:
- “Great Leaders don’t need to act tough.” Confidence and humility set leaders apart.
- “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything.”
- “Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and most importantly, a way of communicating.”
Even today, it’s rare for businesses to actively build a culture that is willing to take risks and accept failure, even though an inevitable part of this growth mindset is failure. Employees who are enabled with this growth mindset are more committed to their work because they have permission and encouragement to grow, learn, and thrive within. Great leaders inspire employees and trust them to step out of their daily work and develop new skills. Great leaders set aside time to ‘train’ employees and give them tools to succeed not only because it will help the organization to grow, but also because it’s good for people. This quip by Peter Baeklund, a leadership consultant, says it all:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
CEO replies to CFO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”
I know I am fortunate to work for an organization that values great leadership and, as such, invests in its people. Our mission is to ‘help others succeed.’ I wake up every morning knowing that whatever my day holds, whichever client I am lucky to work with, that I have a purpose to help them succeed — be it gathering insights to help their brand to grow, helping them to align on key initiatives, or helping their team work more effectively together. I am provided with the tools and, even more importantly, the support to ensure that I can do my very best. This has ultimately been corroborated by the four workplace culture awards we’ve received from the Great Place to Work Institute and the Employee Recommended Workplace over the last couple of years.
Naysayers will tell you that we all go to work for the pay cheque. True. But those lucky enough to work for organizations where the purpose, the why, is very clear, I believe, come to work for so much more.
“Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it.” ― Simon Sinek